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Social and Business Networking and Other Forms of Marketing

13.10   Social and Business Networking
A wealth of information is available on the opportunities for online and offline social and business networking. Breakfast clubs, society lunches, association events and functions together with a variety of online conversations dominate the networking arena around us.
You are urged to “Google” these matters from time to time to enable you to be up to date with the latest trends. I have touched on two matters below whose significance is all to often not appreciated. The first is “hashtagging” and the second is “listening!”
#whatisahashtag    #whyusehashtags   #arehashtagsuseful

The hashtag is a # symbol that gained popularity on Twitter and was used to denote the use of a search keyword or phrase. Americans refer to it as a “pound sign”, but it’s known as a “hash” almost everywhere else. Using the hashtag withouta space before the word or without spaces between words in the phrase increases the likelihood that your tweet or other social media content will be indexed by the search engines for display as a search engine result when that keyword is searched. Hashtags are supported by; Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and by others.  Selecting a hashtag topic/keyword by clicking on one in Twitter and Facebook will display the trends for this topic.  Hashtags used in YouTube comments allow users the option of selecting a hashtag to view other videos with the same hashtags. On Pinterest, you can add hashtags in the descriptions however you need to search the keywords without the #. Google + adds hashtags to content and you can opt-out of the practice if you so desire. Tumblr offers the option of adding hashtags also - you type the topic and Tumblr will add the #. 
#hashtag topics should not be about airing dirty laundry - keep it clean, keep it fresh, keep it entertaining, keep it educational, keep it fun. These attributes are shared with the suggested guidelines for blog topics, and we will revisit the guideline when discussing blogs.
In the main, the use of hashtags creates the opportunity to drive traffic to your site. A “viral” hashtag may not be fiercely competitive, and thus your tagged content will have a realistic chance of being found by way of this link. Marketing a hashtag across all media allows users the opportunity to find and to participate in conversations on a variety of social network platforms. Think about what is currently topical and create a curious #hashtag that you market to your audience and watch as the conversation grows.
Social marketing is akin to offline word of mouth marketing. While you can fund an advertising campaign social marketing dominance is not as easily bought. There are many enablers and tools that need to be funded, the most expensive of which is time, which will enhance the success of a social media campaign. It is common knowledge that listening is an important part, if not the most important part of holding a conversation, when it comes to social media many small businesses rush to add content without researching what’s trending, what keywords (hashtags) are popular, etc. It’s a conversation so the objective is to elicit comment and to encourage content sharing. While harvesting leads for the purpose of converting these to sales is important, you will get there faster if you listen first followed by encouraging content sharing so as to build an audience. Many an advertising campaign is tasked to build awareness so as to get the audience to build a preference for the products so that they will ask for and buy it when needed. The ultimate goal is to obtain testimonials from customers who are not only loyal to the brand but who advocate its use to friends and neighbours. In this way, you can build mutually beneficial relationships with your customer base.
What might you listen for? You will be attempting to gauge your relative popularity versus that of competitors, and you will be looking to gain commercial intelligence concerning product pricing, deals and coupon offerings plus customer satisfaction and keyword dominance.

Tracking benefit marketing will enable you to understand your positioning in the marketplace.   As a small business, you will also best be monitoring what customers are saying about the products that dominate the market.  On what social media channels are customers having product related conversations.  This intelligence will enable you to target audiences for your product and to capitalise upon real or perceived competitor weaknesses.
How does a small business compete with big business social media campaigns? The answer probably lies in knowing your product and its marketplace. Creatively creating relevant hashtags. Making a keyword tool to explore keyword popularity and to “coat-tail” big budget social media campaigns. As always, it is another decision for outsourcing. Having an online presence opens your business to far-reaching marketplaces, increased turnovers, higher profitability but it also requires greater investment as it requires an investment in online tools and marketing people with specialist skills.  As a small business breaking even on a specialist social media marketing person or persons is unlikely and outsourcing should be seriously considered. Establishing where you are in the race for attention is not complex. Simply monitor your “likes,”  “retweets” and “shares.”

Building your online presence will, as a start, probably entail you working towards building your profile on  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+.  At the outset, it is recommended that you start with a couple of channels that you use for defined purposes until those have been established and are active. Having less on more channels will not outperform more on less!
While a multi-channel approach is recommended, consumers without commercial businesses are likely to be active on only one channel. There will be those that participate across a broad front of options, but they will be in the minority.

Over 80% of the about 35% who use only one channel use Facebook. If using Facebook for business marketingbe yourself - a real person and if it is a company page then be a real person that represents the company. Attract attention with images, videos, best of lists, secrets to lists, etc. and give attention to headlines as was the case with e-Mail subject lines.  Join groups and help others. It will get you noticed.
Build your Twitter audience with “Click-to-Tweet” links on your website and stay focused. Twitter followers will be loyal to the subject matter that they are interested in rather than be loyal to you on any matter.
Over 90% of the content on Pinterest is of interest to women. Be sure to offer relevant information to address this audience or you are likely not to have one. Season variations are important as is the time of day (evenings) and also pins with priced products get about a third more likes.
To succeed with Google+ give thought to the relevancy of your circles and use hashtags with content.
LinkedIn is largely a B2B channel. Keep it professional, add articles, build followings and bridge them to your website. Write pictorial content of around 2,000 words with infographics (where relevant), be mindful of the Linkedin top 10 topics and keep it, business school professional, factual and visually easy to read ( short sentences and short paragraphs). Add calls to action and promote the stories on your website and blog.

13.11   Market on e-Commerce Sites, Local Directories and on Testimonial Sites
The world over e-Commerce sites have huge marketing budgets, and they have a ready audience of shoppers looking to satisfy an established appetite to buy. Examples include eBay, OLX and Craiglist. Testimonial sites include Yelp and Webo. Local directories bring relevancy to local search. For consumers tired of getting hundreds of thousands of search results on their phones when they seek a local supplier or service the answer is to search a local directory. It’s about attracting customers.
Once you have these new customers, focus on keeping them by establishing their needs and problems and then by marketing solutions to them. You will do this if you:
  • Refresh your site content so that users have a great user experience each time that they visit your site.
  • Remember that users are visiting your site to browse and buy products or services and they are looking for deals.
  • Where your team did their schooling and adult education etc. is secondary content. The key to user content needs is deals and products or service packages.
  • Make the check out easy and smooth. The minute a user gets stuck in your checkout, they will go elsewhere. Review the information that you want when asking customers to register. Make buyer registration easy and seamless.

13.12   Google Adsense
Google Adsense is a marketing opportunity whereby you host Google adverts (Google Adwords) on your website.  Visitors to your site that click through to linked destinations from the adverts on display generate revenue for you in the form of Pay-per-Click fees paid by the merchants placing the Adwords adverts. Google’s technology senses the nature of your websites, and they place adverts in the defined spaces relevant to the nature of your website. The website owner and Google share on a 50:50 basis the revenue that the advertiser is billed.
Building sites to benefit from AdSence revenue should involve researching profitable AdWords. Building a sustainable revenue from AdSence adverts will depend upon keyword choice and the benefit that users gain from visiting your website. Why will users keep returning to your website? Will you be updating a newsletter? Will you be offering specials? Will users subscribe to an information service?  Note that you can select the format of AdSence adverts so as to tone down big bold adverts that may reduce visitor return dynamics.
13.13   Buying Traffic and Then What?
e-Marketing has a focus on securing “eyeball traffic” to your chosen internet addresses on the internet. These addresses may be sales pages, websites, lead capture pages and more. Online traffic to your sites can be bought. The practice is known as buying Solo Ads.  Solo Ad companies build campaigns to get people to click on an invitation to go to your selected destination. In short, they create Pay Per Click e-mail campaigns. Prices range depending on whether the traffic is what is called “Tier 1” traffic or not. Tier 1 traffic is traffic from countries that are deemed to be mature in so far as online buying is concerned. The Tier 1 countries are the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.  The pricing of Solo Ads generally ranges from about 40 USA cents to a USA Dollar per click. You can also purchase clicks from people that have a history of buying online.
You should double check that Solo Ad clicks that you receive are from clients that have opted in to receive the offers from the Solo Ad company. Solo Ad companies bulk e-mail their client lists until you receive the purchased number of clicks. If they spam e-mail recipients, it is your reputation and that of your brand that will be at risk.  It is suggested that you use an advanced tracking package to analyse the clicks that you receive. Packages from companies such as http://www.clickmagick.com will give you the comfort that you need to ensure that you receive the value promised by the Solo Ad company. 
The ClickMagick system will help you ensure opt-in, track, split test, link cloak and more so as to fully analyse your e-mail campaigns.
13.14   Leverage Your Business with SEO- Search Engine Optimisation
Yip, it’s as the Irishman said to the lost traveller; t’be sure I’d not be starting from hier t’be getting thir!
SEO is for those that thrive in a cloud of mist and vagueness without rule books but who live for measurable results to show whose ingenuity has won the day. It takes but time, dedication and experience to feed the unknown and many an eager merchant will skip to article marketing, backlink building and local directories, direct mail advertising and other means to achieve the desired traffic result.  It is here that the relevance of the section on focus and work will have meaning to many. Much of SEO is doable by small business but achieving a backlink tally that approaches and exceeds the 10,000 mark is a huge ask for average budgets. These backlink tallies are achieved by teams of people working full time at article, video and audio syndication.
Users on the Internet may find you as a search result if your site is optimised so as to be a good answer to the user’s search question. Users are unlikely to page through the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of search results especially if they are searching on their mobile phones.  This then is the trump card of local directories and neighbourhood lists that offer tap to dial or link ease of use.
Google use overall importance with query-specific relevance to be able to put the most relevant and reliable results first. To determine page importance they use what they call Page Rank to examine the entire link structure of the web. What this means is that they use a formula. A formula that is uncompromised by attempts to enable it to be dictated to. What is known is that links are analysed to assess the number of relevant sites that link to your site. The more sites that link to yours the better will be the rankings that you are accorded. All too often the process of optimisation will replace the common CLICK HERE link terminology with a more keyword specific link. By incorporating keywords in the link, the quality of the link is improved as the query for this keyword is more likely to have relevance. The reality is that big business has the edge.
Next Google analyses what they call Hypertext-Matching Analysis.  Here they analyse a page and the surrounding pages to assess the overall theme as being relevant to the queried keyword search. To score well here, you will have to test the optimisation of related keyword themes on surrounding pages to be able to validate the impact of each chosen related but different keyword theme on a surrounding page. The end result is that you need to think of groups of pages with common and supporting themes to achieve high page rankings.  Individually themed webpages are easily assessed; they will not on their own offer a high page ranking opportunity.
Another useful tactic, for those that do not have search engine description and title enablers (Meta Tag builders) embedded on their websites, is to use a plug-in such as Platinum SEO Pack or Yoast SEO. These plug-ins will create Search Engine friendly titles and descriptions with the added advantage that you will be able to “craft” the wording for the Search Engine’s search result. If you do have an enabler, it is not a bad idea to get the plug-in anyway as it opens the opportunity for a variant description and title to be submitted that targets a similar but different keyword or keyword phrase. We have discussed the importance of using H1, H2, etc. headings that are keyword rich. The search engines draw relative keyword importance from the fact that the keywords appear in the defined article headings. Another matter that draws attention is the use of anchor text. Anchor text are the words or phrase that are highlighted so as to indicate that these words are a link to content elsewhere on the page. Given that keywords are linked to content it adds credibility to the fact that the keywords are meaningfully covered in the content.
As a part of the SEO work done page tactics should be audited/reviewed.  Page tactics used may have legitimate intent, but they should be reviewed for relevance and acceptability.
  • Cloaking; when one URL is used to disguise the true identity of a destination URL. The cloaked domain displays instead of the true URL identity of the site. Cloaking should be discouraged.
  •  Hiding text. Here the text is set to be the same colour as the page background. Often it is for a very legitimate purpose that text is hidden however as it is subject to abuse it should be removed as a part of the optimisation process.
  • Check and ensure that there are no malicious, misleading redirections to say fake websites that mirror legitimate destinations for phishing or other purposes. These may have been added by a hacker, and an audit of your site is encouraged.
  • Websites should have enough pages so as to establish a theme. To do this six or seven webpages with at least a couple of hundred words on each are needed to be assessed as relevant by search engines. In so doing ensure that there is no duplication as this may result in an SEO down rating.
  • Check the use of doorway pages; these redirect users often without them knowing to alternative destinations for, at best,  dubious reasons.
  • The use of what are termed Black Hat SEO versus White-Hat SEO.  In summary, Black-Hat techniques are classified as cheating, and the use thereof is likely to result in being banned or blacklisted.
  • Limit or avoid the use of Flash on pages. The search engines cannot analyse it, and they may down rank your site because of it.
  • Do not use welcome pages that then link to follow-on pages but do offer a link directory or link lists to other relevant websites such as it offered in the www.eGauteng.info site builder.
  • The hosting company that you use, and it’s reliability and credibility for not hosting spammers and others that utilise dubious methods and engage in illegitimate pursuits.
  • Use site builders that allow you to view the source code. In doing this, you will be able to determine if there are huge quantities of hidden and irrelevant code that is frowned upon by search engines.
  • The loading of large quantities of keywords in HTML Meta Tags will also result in your site being down ranked. Optimise the site for a small number of relevant keywords.
  • Search engines cannot read images, but they can read text descriptions. Often these descriptions are not provided which results in a site not being optimised.
  • Search engines have difficulty in reading certain special characters. Special characters should be avoided in headings, page names and in page URLs. The following should be avoided in most of these circumstances: ampersand (&), dollar sign ($), equals sign (=), percent sign (%) and question mark (?).
  • Being listed in relevant categories in Internet directories will be taken to be relevant links that will enhance page ranking. Links to these sites can be inbound and outbound.
  • Websites should be submitted to relevant search engines once optimisation is complete and submission should not be done too frequently.
  • The reality is that for most neighbourhood websites the likelihood of generating the hundreds of in and outbound links to boost page ranking in a meaningful manner makes this endeavour somewhat futile. For those that want to persist the investment ina SEO software package, or the use of a specialist consultant may be a sound idea. Many merchants in this category rely on alternative methods of deriving website traffic such as from affiliate marketers, local directories and direct marketing to target markets. The strength of the www.egauteng.info directory is an example of an alternative approach to deriving website traffic. A great reasonably priced package that will offer you great value versus the cost of consultants is buying the keyword analysis tool, article submitter, SEO adviser and more called Market Samurai.
Given the time, you will be able to find many more guidelines to enhancing SEO. My view is that it is not actually that complex. Once you gain an understanding of what the goals are, you will be able to achieve the desired results without becoming harassed by detail. One more time; sink or swim. Reduced to a micro series of steps, how to swim, may just sink you! Understand the concept, and you will do it without being aware of the complexity of “the how” at a micro level. Search engines thrive on text; text that contains searchable keywords within relevant, quality stories that have an interest value. For the local small business, my suggestion is that you focus on a few manageable things.

Creating valuable keyword rich content that is relevant to popular keywords for your subject matter.

Adhere to Internet/Web standards (e.g. W3C) and ensure that you do not embark on undesirable practices. Use coded headings,sub headings and describe images.

Build inbound links by appointing affiliates, networking with relevant other sites such as directories where you list in relevant categories and byaffordably running PPC advertising campaigns that offer sustainable profitability.
Should you do the above, the crawlers that the search engines send out will find your site and when there they will find what they need to offer relevant search results to answer user search queries. It is difficult to compete with big business SEO budgets but done right small business can dramatically improve their rankings. Small business has a big advantage that they can use which is their reach into local markets.
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